This has been a very long week.
We were all set to leave Berlin on Wednesday, 20 January and arrive in Bangkok the next morning. That left two full days beforehand to prepare and cross-check everything thoroughly before departure.
Until we were both struck down with a bout of norovirus on Monday night. The timing couldn't have been more perfect, and made getting ready really fun in between tag-teaming runs (pun intended) to the bathroom. Limping along through Tuesday and trying desperately to will ourselves back to working capacity, Neil started feeling better after lunchtime and graciously left the house to run some last minute errands whilst Jess kept to bed. Around 8:30 PM, we finally got our act together enough to start packing, which meant half-heartedly throwing things into our panniers and not really caring one way or another. Everything hurt.
Luckily when we woke up the next morning, things didn't seem so terrible health-wise. So we loaded up the tandem and rode to the S-bahn to catch the S9 to Schönefeld Airport.
Arriving with plenty of time to spare, we set off to un-couple the bike and wrap everything up before checking it in.
The parts of the bike we knew absolutely had to be protected in transit were the back derailleur and the disc brake. These two components are near impossible to find elsewhere, at least to the original specifications, so we wrapped those separately in bubble wrap. The rest of the frame and wheels were also surrounded by several layers of packing material - all of which was courtesy of one Jesse Niemelä. Both wheels were deflated, with the front wheel being taken off entirely to comply with airline regulations. To keep the bike together in transit, we used climbing ropes which have been tested previously for durability because they also hold up our hammock.
With everything packed tightly, we shrouded it all with the plastic tarp, taped it closed, and crossed our fingers as we put the bound bike through the first security hurdle. So far, so good.
We then strolled up to the ticket counter, pleased as punch because we still had an hour left before boarding. Plenty of time. Handed over our printed tickets. Then passed along our passports.
Jess's passport holder was empty.
The night before, we had taken liberties to make photocopies of our passports in case we were pulled over by police at various checkpoints in Burma and had to produce them. We made copies of hers last and in our delirium, had left it in the scanner machine at home.
It was now 10:30. Plane was taking off at noon.
She had a little over an hour to take a cab back to our flat which was a good 40 minutes away, grab her passport, take said cab back, get inside the airport, check-in, go through security, get to the gate, and get on the plane.
Yeah. It wasn't happening. We missed our first flight to Moscow which meant that we automatically forfeited the remaining booked flights. So in order to get on the next flight out, we had to rebook and repay for all the flights all over again. Hard thing to swallow after such a shaky start.
Eventually, we were on our way. Connected in Moscow, onward to Bangkok, and landed in Mae Sot on Thursday evening. Bike and all four panniers made it through in one piece.
Just needed to put the bike back together outside Mae Sot Airport and ride the 7km or so into town.
Except that the timing chain refused to cooperate. And we spent the next three hours trying to figure out what was wrong. It just kept coming loose every couple turns on the crank and falling off. We were getting nowhere and the sun was coming down fast.
On the tail end of two very long days of travel, we finally threw in the towel and asked the airport security guard to give us a ride into town on his pick-up truck. Thanks to him, we are now staying at the fantastic T. House, a guesthouse suited for cyclists due to its location and decor (bike memorabilia everywhere, including its sign) which we would have never found on our own.
We cross the border Sunday morning. Let's hope this bloody timing chain gets fixed as soon as possible, otherwise Jess is going to be singlehandedly pedalling us through this entire trip, and Neil will be free-steering the whole way.